BY RYAN TOUHEY and COLIN CANNATA
Sports Editor and Staff Reporter
On Wednesday, Oct. 23, Robert Bertucci was named the new head coach of the Sacred Heart University men’s volleyball team.
The opportunity to coach a Division I men’s volleyball program was what appealed to Bertucci about the job.
“I felt like it was a good fit,” said Bertucci. “I was able to talk with Bobby Valentine (Sacred Heart Athletic Director) and I got the chance to meet some of the other people in the Athletic Department who are really nice guys.”
Bertucci’s career in college volleyball dates back to the 1970s, when he played at Springfield College in Massachusetts. According to the Springfield athletic website, he was the captain, and the team went 85-14-3 during his time there. He also helped the program get its first Division I “Final Four” berth.
After graduating from Springfield in 1974, Bertucci coached volleyball at the United States Military Academy at West Point and the University of Tennessee. In 1987, he began coaching the men’s and women’s volleyball teams at Rutgers University in Newark, N.J. According to the Sacred Heart athletics website, Bertucci led the men’s team to the “Final Four” in 1990.
After seven years at Rutgers, Bertucci moved on to Temple University in Philadelphia in 1995. There, he coached the women’s volleyball team and led them to four NCAA Tournaments and a “Sweet Sixteen” appearance in 2002.
Bertucci would remain at Temple until 2011, when he moved to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa, in what would be a seven-year tenure as the women’s volleyball head coach.
According to the Sacred Heart athletics website, Bertucci led Lehigh to six playoff appearances and was also named the Patriot League Coach of the Year in 2014.
Bertucci also has coached at the international level as a member of the USA Women’s National Team.
“My favorite memories in college volleyball are winning conference championships,” said Bertucci. “Beating Penn State in the EIVA at Rutgers and winning the first SEC title at Tennessee are all really good memories.”
Sacred Heart went 7-15 overall last season and went 2-12 in conference play.
“It’s no secret that our program hasn’t been very successful in years past,” said junior setter Noah Ricchetti. “It is encouraging that we are now being coached by someone who has won a lot in his career and can potentially turn the program into a successful one.”
Bertucci is looking to create a new culture and strategy for the team.
“I think we have a very competitive team right now, and what we need to do is make it a solid program,” said Bertucci. “Year to year, we’re going to start to build something that is going to last long after I’m gone.”
Ricchetti has seen improvements in himself and many of his teammates through strength and conditioning workouts, and standard team practices.
“Personally, I feel a hundred times more athletic, smooth, and controlled after hearing just a few things from our new coaches,” said Ricchetti. “If this upward trend can continue, I really feel that our performance will skyrocket.”
Bertucci was impressed with the players’ initiative to train and practice on their own before he arrived at Sacred Heart.
“I was pleasantly surprised to see how eager they were to go,” said Bertucci. “They seemed like a really nice group of guys.”
Ricchetti feels that everything that the team has done with Bertucci has been more purposeful, compared to previous seasons. He hopes that this camaraderie shows itself when the season begins.
“Our team has a lot of potential that hasn’t been brought out yet, which is something that Bertucci is excited to work with,” said Ricchetti.
Bertucci has made it clear to his players that wants to win the conference championship this year.